DTU Transcription – “Nothing Personal”

“Nothing Personal”is an original composition by pianist Don Grolnick and was first recorded by Michael Brecker on his self-titled 1987 solo album debut.

In 2001, the band Karizma recorded the tune on their album Document, featuring Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. This transcription includes the opening drum set solo by Colaiuta, spanning the first minute and six seconds of the track.


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Difficulty Level: 9/10

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Chart Breakdown

Colaiuta’s solo is in binary (A B) form, consisting of two distinct sections. Measures 1-37 comprise the A section, which is metrically free, without a single clearly defined time signature. It is collection of phrases that gradually increase in intensity and, generally, increase in length as well.


As you play through the A section, it is important to think of the music in these phrases. For example, the first phrase ends in measure 8 and is punctuated by a breath mark. In this context, the mark indicates a slight rubato, or relaxation of strict time; there is a slight hesitation before going on to the next phrase. The end of most phrases is clearly defined either by a breath mark, a fermata, or a rest from the flurry of activity in the hands. The A section peaks during the last phrase of the section, which is in 7/16. This phrase can be thought of as a modified dotted-eighth swing pattern, with the left hand filling in the spaces of the ride pattern, making for a steady stream of sixteenth notes. Once you reach the fermata at the end of the A section, take a deep breath, because the B section yields no mercy.

The B section consists of measures 38-56, and this section needs to be practiced first at slow tempos, then brought up to speed. There are so many notes and intricate passages in this section that it is easy to play parts of it incorrectly or sloppily if you don’t start slow. During this section, Colaiuta locks into a steady 4/4 groove at a blistering pace. Every snare hit that is not accented needs to be played as a ghost note in this section-it is vital to the feel of the passage. You really need to “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”The ghost notes need to be played very subtly, and the accents need to be loud. This dynamic contrast is what gives the passage its bite, and it is one of the most challenging aspects of the piece-going from quiet ghost notes to powerful accents in the left hand amidst so many sixteenth notes at such a quick tempo.

Another challenging aspect to be aware of is the line that is formed between the right and left foot. Although the left foot keeps a steady quarter-note pulse, it is difficult to keep that pulse consistent when there are so many syncopations in the bass drum pattern. Particularly challenging are the parts of the groove where there is a quick succession of sixteenth notes in the feet, R-L-R. The solo ends with a whole lot of heat, but there is much more than meets the ear in the final 13 measures. Colaiuta plays lines that require some tricky sticking combinations that, again, should be practiced slowly at first.

This solo needs to be played with considerable energy and gusto. With 56 measures in 66 seconds, it is a workout. I suggest stocking up on Gatorade and Power Bars before woodshedding.

Check out this video of Vinnie playing “Nothing Personal” live.  This performance doesn’t match up exactly with the transcription, but you can see just how amazing Vinnie really is!


All Drummer Talk Transcriptions adhere to the PAS standard for drumset notation.
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